The city's Licensing Board has voted unanimously to end an age-old tradition during the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. Citing "emergency security" as the reason, the board says motorcycles will be banned from the front of the Panthers Club on Madeira Avenue across the street from the main entrance to the Feast grounds.

Bikers will not be permitted to park in the Panthers lot at all, a representative from Panthers Club tells WBSM. She said that if people do see bikes in the lot during the Feast, it is because they are known to the Panthers Club and have permission. The representative said this is because the lot will be used for other things, such as portable restrooms. However, there has been no official explanation for the decision from the powers that be.

As a matter of fact, City Councilor Ian Abreu, who serves on the Feast committee and was last year's public relations chair, says the first he heard of the parking ban was on WBSM on Tuesday. Mayor Jon Mitchell's Office was also unclear about the parking ban but later confirmed it and shared an excerpt from the Licensing Board's meeting minutes reporting out the ban.

Many bikers have expressed disappointment with the vote, with some telling me they will not attend the Feast if they cannot park their bikes in front of the Panthers. One caller to my program who lives near the Feast grounds was happy about the ban, saying the motorcycles make too much noise late at night and often set off car alarms and keep neighbors awake. Others tell me it is just part of living in the neighborhood and is bearable for four days out of the year.

With the Gilroy, California Garlic Festival mass shooting still fresh in mind, additional security for our Feast seems reasonable. Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro has a daunting task in providing security for a festival that draws hundreds of thousands of people coming and going through multiple openings throughout the Feast grounds.

If those in charge of security tell me it makes sense to ban bike parking in front of the Panthers for "emergency security" reasons, I yield to their expertise. It seems like a small price to pay if it can help to protect lives and property during the Feast.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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